Pitchfork Fest 2014 Sunday Recap

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While Saturday at Pitchfork Fest brought the rock back into the equation, early Sunday ratcheted up the noise even more with some boisterous early afternoon sets. The day then winded down quite nicely with some excellent hip-hop and electronic sets, as reviewed by our own Dan Henshaw who took the lead on the Sunday coverage. And with that, here’s our “better late than ever” recap of Pitchfork Fest 2014 final day…

1:12 p.m. – Speedy Ortiz
Photo by Richard Giraldi

Photo by Richard Giraldi


Speedy Ortiz kicked things off on Sunday with their brand Northampton, MA, ’90s-inspired college radio rock.The criss-crossing guitar lines of guitarists Sadie Dupuis and Devin Mcknight sound nice on record, but even better live especially on newer material such as the melancholy, slinky riffs of “Oxygal” and the freewheeling Pavement vibe of their latest Adult Swim single, “Bigger Party.” But I’d be remiss to not point out that as great the intertwining guitar lines of Speedy Ortiz are, their buzzing rhythm section of bassist Darl Ferm and drummer Mike Falcone. Performance-wise, Speedy Ortiz performed with just the right combination of looseness and irascibility, but a problem that persisted through at least the first two acts on the Blue Stage, low overall sound volume caused fans toward the back of the blue stage area to hear quite a bit of bleed from the larger Red stage across Union Park. (Richard Giraldi)

1:50 p.m. – Perfect Pussy
Photo by Richard Giraldi

Photo by Richard Giraldi


I was quite intrigued by this set because the day before I heard from not one but two people whose live music opinions I respect that Perfect Pussy did not have a good showing at their Bottom Lounge after show on Friday. Apparently, the noise-based hardcore did not translate to the Lake St. rock club and vocals were, unfortunately lost in the mix. However, it seems as though the sound technicians at Pitchfork faired better than their Bottom Lounge colleagues as the band’s mix worked to hear everything including frontwoman Meredith Graves’ manic, rapid fire shouts. As a live show, it’s furious fun as the band rumbles through minute to minute and a half of slightly melodic punk chords and jarring waves of feedback. Again, louder would have been better, but Perfect Pussy’s rambunctious energy absolutely shined through. (Richard Giraldi)

2:37 p.m. – Deafheaven
Photo by Richard Giraldi

Photo by Richard Giraldi


Once again, the annual metal band booking at Pitchfork Fest is proven to be quite the success as this year San Francisco progressive black metal outfit Deafheaven brought Pitchfork to a complete halt on Sunday afternoon with an terrifically brutal and aggressive live show. Their thunderous riffs echoed over the crowd as lead singer George Clarke belted out harrowing growls while looking completely demented or possessed. Their intensity was quite hypnotic, and, oh, it was really, really loud, which turned up the drama to 11. The band’s 2013, “Sunbather,” was the metal of record of last year for many, and it was easy to see why in one of the best sets of the entire weekend. (Richard Giraldi)

3:25 p.m. – Earl Sweatshirt
Photo by Richard Giraldi

Photo by Richard Giraldi


While nowhere near Jeff Mangum levels, there was a time when no one was sure when they’d hear from Odd Future wunderkind Earl Sweatshirt again, let alone see him perform live. After seeing OF on the very same stage two years ago at the height of the “Free Earl” movement, and enduring a brief panic attack just a couple of weeks ago, it was awesome to finally see him on stage. The set was lively and fun, full of quite a few tracks from last year’s excellent Doris, plus some choice cuts from his first album – “Couch” and “Kill,” – plus some great non-album and live-only songs. Some tracks were truncated to exclude guest verses – “20 Wave,” “Sunday,” “Molasses” – while others like “Whoa” and “Hive” saw Earl take on guest spots himself. The set worked, but the banter between songs was just as good. At the start of his set, Earl had the whole crowd sing the first verse and chorus of “Don’t Stop Believin” for no apparent reason, and he peppered the set with similar antics. He led numerous chants – which Domo Genesis made sure to snapchat – and directed much of the banter at “Brett,” an audience member he singled out and assigned a name to early on. In the end, Earl Sweatshirt mixed of smart rapping and hilarious antics for something quite enjoyable. (Dan Henshaw)

5:19 p.m. – Real Estate

Real Estate were perfectly happy to deliver a straightforward, no frills set packed with tunes from their latest album Atlas, as well as highlights from 2011’s Days. Some might find it a tad boring, but I didn’t mind the approach, as the band wasted no time delivering one excellent song after another. The band’s music doesn’t really lend itself to theatrics or embellishment, and the stage was free of adornment. They didn’t even get the default light boxes that everyone else seemed to have. It’s hard to even talk highlights with such a consistently strong set of songs, but catalog zenith “It’s Real” got the crowd going. The set may have been spare, but Real Estate seem like such a natural fit for sunny summer days. In other words the stage was already set, they just arrived and provided the soundtrack. (Dan Henshaw)

6:10 p.m. – Majical Cloudz

I arrived to the blue stage just a bit late, to see Majical Cloudz not as I expected them. Singer/writer Devon Walsh was perched atop a metal folding chair, head shaved, blank white shirt neatly tucked in, with co-producer/collaborator Matthew Otto crouched down behind his laptop on a table. Walsh was singing an a capella version of “This Is Magic,” the haunting second song from last year’s amazing Impersonator. I watched him perform the whole song without a single note of accompaniment and with only his voice doing all the work. After he finished, he and Otto huddled up, as if planning their next move. I asked another observer what was up, and was informed that the pair had encountered sound issues right from the start. Walsh then informed the crowd that he could do a new song with help from the laptop. It was a beautiful, bare, piano driven track that quoted “Hallelujah” – which Walsh cited immediately, saying, “that’s from a Leonard Cohen song” – before he even sang the next line. After finishing that, Walsh clarified what was going on: their keyboard had “died forever,” thus leaving them unable to play many of the songs on their setlist. A huge blow of course, but the two soldiered on with an improvised set. Walsh informed us he could do a song if we gave him a steady clap. He delivered “Childhood’s End” to a beat provided entirely by the crowd, pausing once after the first chorus to ask us to slow down, with a laugh. He did laptop-assisted versions of “I Do Sing For You” and “Silver Rings” and they sounded fine with the limited instrumentation. Even though it was probably something of a nightmare for the two, and clearly not what they wanted to do with the set, it was certainly one of the most interesting sets of the weekend. The duo made the best out of bad situation, and after it was over, Otto had the crowd count down from ten and then he smashed the keyboard on the stage. (Dan Henshaw)

7:30 p.m. – Grimes

Claire Boucher (aka Grimes) took the red stage Sunday evening looking like an instructor from an ’80s dance aerobics video wearing all spandex and leg warmers. She then proceeded to dazzle the crowd with one of the best all around performances of the weekend. She opened with Visions track “Symphonia IX (My Wait Is U),” and she and other on-stage dancers for got down for “Circumambient.” “Oblivion,” probably her best known tune, provided one of the weekend’s top highlights as it really got the crowd going. The set of course contained a good chunk of her spectacular Visions LP, but seeing as that album is nearly two years old, she did preview some new material as well. She introduced new song “David,” saying that the lyrics weren’t entirely ironed out, and it was a fun, upbeat number. Toward the end of the set she performed “Go,” which was a new song she wrote for Rihanna but was ultimately rejected. So, Boucher has been playing it live lately and with good reason. While the music was great, Boucher seems to have grown into her own and looked like a bona fide pop star with confident stage presence and impressive vocal delivery that saw her go between breathy coos to raw yowls. Based on what I saw Sunday night, Grimes looks poised move into Festival headliner status sooner rather than later. (Dan Henshaw)

8:45 p.m. – Kendrick Lamar

Having seen Kendrick deliver an excellent opening set on the Yeezus tour half a year ago, my expectations for his festival-closing performance Sunday night were pretty high. Things got off to a bad start as Lamar was over twenty minutes late for the set. When he did finally arrive, he began the show in the very same fashion as the Yeezus performance, with an intro video leading into an amped up version of “Money Trees.” I love this live version of the track, with its extra juice and intensity, and it’s a great way to open a set. The rest of the set was basically a whirlwind of good kid, m.A.A.d city cuts. Lamar at least touched on nearly every single track from the album, some being performed in their entirety, others just getting a verse or so. Lamar isn’t above toying with the tracks as he sometimes starts in the middle of songs, or in the case of “Bitch Don’t Kill My Vibe,” doing completely different verses. Faithful renditions of “Backseat Freestyle” and the crowd pleasing “Swimming Pools (Drank)” played very well to the festival audience. Not every moment worked perfectly: I felt some of the extended crowd chant-a-long moments towards the end of “m.A.A.d city” and “The Recipe” went a little long, even though the live guitar work on the former was quite good. All told it was a strong set that wasn’t quite as tight as past performances. Lamar didn’t seem quite as on point at times, occasionally awkwardly skipping over lines, and relying a little too heavily on crowd participation. Also just getting just one Section.80 cut – the set closing “A.D.H.D” – was a little disappointing, and perhaps we could’ve gotten a couple more if he’d been on time. Overall though it was a fun set filled with incredibly strong music, and I left feeling plenty satisfied, if not absolutely blown away. (Dan Henshaw)

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